You guys, news flash. It’s time to start watching network TV again.
Yeah yeah, we all know about Mad Men, Broad City, Game of Thrones…. we all know the list of cool-person-approved shows. I agree with you that the first season of Mr. Robot is really something. Breaking Bad is unprecedented TV, I know I know. But I have noticed that premium cable has the tendency to leave me feeling kind of… bummed? disturbed? depressed? The whole purpose of these types of shows is to test the limits, throw you off, keep you off kilter. Right now the name of the game is discomfort… and sometimes I’m just not up for that…. Which is why I’m going to make my pitch for the warm embrace of network TV (in this instance, specifically, comedies).
Look, I’m going to admit right off the bat that a half hour network comedy is formulaic. There’s a reason for this. During the course of an episode, the show has to introduce a conflict that will be at least mostly resolved by the end of the episode. And each show has to follow a fairly predictable structure, because the network wants to shove a certain number of commercial breaks into a half hour, and each commercial break translates to an act break. This means that each episode tends to have certain familiar “beats,” which can make shows feel predictable. Cable shows have a lot more freedom artistically and creatively to break structural molds.
But that doesn’t mean that network has to be boring! Right now network TV is filled with comedies that are grounded in familiar structures, but are taking creative leaps. And are funny! This is my personal viewing sweet spot– comforting, but with a twist. Like jalapeno matzoh ball soup. (yum…..)
But what should I watch, you ask? Great question! Y’all already know about Black-ish, Modern Family, etc., so I won’t waste your time advocating for those, but there are some fantastic and under-watched shows out there right now. I’ll start by recommending a Fox show called Son of Zorn. It has a super innovative premise (I’ll let you watch to find out what it is), which is possible because the show is part animation, part live-action– and it’s weirder than anything you’d expect to see on network. Plus the jokes are snappy, it’s genuinely touching, and Cheryl Hines and Tim Meadows routinely run away with the show. And since a gray Sunday is the perfect opportunity to binge TV on the couch under a blanket, there’s really no excuse not to give it a shot…. Just saying. Enjoy!